If you feel worn out from keeping up with the news lately, you're not alone. According to a study from last year, two-thirds of Americans say that they're stressed out about the future of the country, and more than half say that the current political climate is a source of anxiety for them.
Nina Rifkind, LCSW, ACS, owner of Wellspring Counseling in Denville, N.J., says that anecdotally, she's seen many clients who say they've been more anxious about news and major events in the past year. As she puts it, the past year has been tumultuous, whether we're talking about mass shootings, natural disasters, or the border crisis.
"We all crave a certain level of routine and predictability in everyday life," she says. "It gives us a sense of security and consistency. These are things we’ve seen very little of recently."
It's not just that the news itself seems so abundant and devastating lately — we also have more access to it than we ever have, from mainstream news channels to social media and even podcasts.
"It's easy to feel the pressure of constantly knowing what’s going on, who was involved, how many people were hurt or killed, typically, [and] it's not very happy stuff," Rifkind says.
And because news is so easily accessible now, she says there's more pressure to be in the know and keep up with a seemingly endless news cycle — and that, too, can affect your mental health.
While keeping informed and knowledgeable about the issues that affect us is important, staying well informed doesn’t necessarily provide a sense of comfort or stability.
Nina Rifkind, LCSW, ACS
"While keeping informed and knowledgeable about the issues that affect us is important, staying well informed doesn’t necessarily provide a sense of comfort or stability," she says.
Still, it's important to be informed about what's going on in the world, and Rifkind says that there are mindful ways to do that beyond just limiting your news consumption (she recommends catching up for just 20 minutes per day and never before bed).
"You might consider using online services that provide summaries, or bullet points related to significant news developments," Rifkind says. "That way you avoid getting transfixed by the hostile debates that can dominate TV news, and other media outlets."
As tempting as it is to fire off a comment when your aunt posts something on Facebook that you disagree with, Rifkind says it's probably better for your mental health if you refrain, lest you ignite a vicious cycle that only ends in frustration.
"If you find yourself obsessing over a particular event or story on the news, its important to ask yourself, What can I do about this issue right now?" she says. If the answer is nothing, it might be helpful to take a step back and focus on self-care, whether that's working off your anxiety at the gym or turning off your news notifications for the day.
"The flip side to avoiding news that makes you anxious is to take that energy and fight for a change that you feel passionate about," Rifkind says. "Getting involved with activism and volunteering can help you feel more in control of things, and connect you with people who share the same drive."
If you are experiencing anxiety and are in need of crisis support, please call the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.